The evolution of Miami’s F1 track: Seven layouts which led to its final design

2022 Miami Grand Prix

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A grand prix in Miami has been a top target for Formula 1’s owners Liberty Media since they took over the sport five years ago.

But the route to this weekend’s inaugural grand prix has been far from smooth. Since the race was first mooted, when a radical route including an underground tunnel was considered, many different configurations have been proposed, amended and rejected.

The original venue for the race had to be abandoned due to local opposition. A new site was chosen, where the race will take place this weekend, but that layout too has been through many revisions.

Here’s how the final, 5.4-kilometre Miami International Autodrome which will hold this weekend’s Miami Grand Prix evolved from its predecessors.

Original Miami Biscayne Bay track layout

Original 2019 Miami Grand Prix F1 track proposal
Original 2019 Miami Grand Prix F1 track proposal

F1’s first choice of location for its Miami race was on the waterfront overlooking Biscayne Bay. Single-seaters had raced there before, including the CART IndyCar series and Formula E, and the setting had an obvious appeal for the series.

Unfortunately the series did not hold the same appeal for the locals, which was why the race eventually had to move. But not before the promoters made several attempts to address concerns by modifying the course.

The original, anti-clockwise Miami track layout, including two long acceleration zones leading back and forth across PortMiami, was not a hit with the drivers either.

“Miami is a super-cool place and I was very excited to hear about it,” said Lewis Hamilton . “But when I saw the layout I was like… meh. I think it could be a lot more fun. You have got two of the longest straights, but maybe when you drive it, it will be fun.”

They never got to drive it, of course, though not due to a lack of effort on the promoters’ part.

Original Miami Grand Prix circuit location

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Bayfront Park route

Revised possible Miami Grand Prix Formula 1 circuit
Proposed Miami Grand Prix track version two

The original Biscayne Bay track layout included a run around a sports arena known at the time as the American Airlines Arena. Formula E’s much shorter circuit followed part of the same route.

However this area of land fell within the jurisdiction of a commissioner who opposed its use for a race. This forced the promoters to redraw their route.

Their solution was to expand the track to the south into Bayfront Park, an area which had previously been used for races by other series, including IMSA.

Revised Bayfront Park route

2019 Miami Grand Prix F1 track proposal
Proposed Miami Grand Prix track version three

Hopes the Miami Grand Prix would go ahead in 2019 were ultimately dashed despite further revisions to the track layout. This added further corners to the section of course on Dodge Island. A double chicane was inserted where the cars would have made their return bridge crossing and approached the final left-hander at high speed.

But the practical considerations of the track were secondary to the political opposition to the race, which finally forced the promoters to look elsewhere.

Early Hard Rock stadium layout

Miami Hard Rock stadium proposed circuit

A key mover behind the Mimi race was Stephen Ross, who at one stage considered buying F1, before Liberty Media took over. Having abandoned his efforts to stage the grand prix on the scenic waterfront, Ross instead looked to a property he already owned: The Hard Rock Stadium, home to the Miami Dolphins NFL team, some 20 kilometres north of the original venue.

A plan was devised to construct a pit and paddock to the north-east of the stadium and lay out an anti-clockwise circuit using the car parks and roads surrounding it. The race finally had a venue, but political considerations forced further changes to the course.

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Second Hard Rock stadium layout

Planned Hard Rock Stadium F1 circuit for 2021 Miami Grand Prix
Planned Hard Rock Stadium F1 circuit for 2021 Miami Grand Prix

The first sector of the track went through the most changes. The original configuration was quite slow and included a sharp left-handed hairpin leading to a long acceleration zone along 199th street to a couple of 90-degree turns.

This was later revise: The hairpin was replaced with a quicker corner which led to an extended acceleration zone, formed by creating a new, tighter section at the end of it.

Third Hard Rock stadium layout

Miami Hard Rock Stadium proposal
Miami Hard Rock Stadium proposal

Moving the race venue had not solved the problem of local opposition. Concerns were raised over the use of active roads, leading the promoters to shift the track off 199th street.

The basic configuration remained the same, though the acceleration zone along the south edge of the circuit had acquired new, flat-out bends.

“World-class racing without using 199th street and no racing during school hours,” proclaimed Miami Dophins CEO Tom Garfinkel when the revised track was revealed. “The F1 Miami Grand Prix will showcase Miami-Dade and Miami Gardens to the world.”

At this stage they still planned to construct the pit lane on the inside of track, as is common practice at most venues. This was the final change of note to take place.

Final Hard Rock stadium layout

Miami International Autodrome
Miami International Autodrome

Having moved to pits to the outside of the track, the opening sequences of bends was also amended. The new configuration resembles the first three turns at Brazil’s Interlagos, albeit reversed and flattened. Indeed, one inevitable consequence of the track’s location is it is largely flat.

After five years of effort and after going through many track variations, F1 finally has its Miami Grand Prix. The 19-turn course promises to be quick, with average lap speeds comparable to those seen at Imola.

Interest in F1 is rising rapidly in America. But the sport has been through more venues in this country than anywhere else: this is its 11th different home. It now falls to Miami to provide the kind of spectacle Liberty Media is eager to create in its home territory.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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18 comments on “The evolution of Miami’s F1 track: Seven layouts which led to its final design”

  1. From watching various simulations of the track, it looks fairly decent overall however that section on the far east of the circuit (as the map is orientated) looks horrible. It’s just lots of slow corners combined together… I think with the big, heavy cars they have these days, that’s not going to be fun to drive or watch… I really like the turn by the fake boats though – anywhere where you have to break whilst turning always creates mistakes and interesting lines etc.

    1. @petebaldwin Yes, the turn 14/15 chicane appears a lot slower now than I initially realised.

    2. The goal seems to be to create a dilemma for the setup, to create different strategies.

  2. The only thing I dislike about the eventual final configuration is the T14-15 chicane.
    I generally prefer high & medium-speed corners over slow-speed ones, but a decently flowing track otherwise.

    1. These corners definitely will suit the Ferrari with their advantage in mechanical grip.
      But I dont mind having one part with slow corners in an otherwise speedy track.
      Just think about Suzuka, Spa, Monza, Old Hockenheim – sometimes they can spice things up.

      1. @jerejj @banana88x I generally feel the same. That whole section from 12 through 16 does seem especially fiddly, even compared to something like the Hockenheim stadium section or Monza’s chicanes. But one interesting thing about the 14/15 chicane and 16 seems to be the amount of gradient change — it almost reminds me of Variante Alta at Imola or running the chicane at Barcelona backwards.

  3. My biggest gripe with most of the more modern circuits, Especially the more recent temporary one’s is how they all follow the same template.

    They all have to have really long straights with a tight corner at the end, The corners at the end of straights have to be really open on the entry, They all have to have a tight fiddly ‘stadium’ section, They all have to have a really long corner like Sochi T3 or a long Multi-Apex Istanbul T8 replica & then they all have to have a fast sequence sort of replicating Maggetts/Beckets/Chapel.

    I just struggle to get all that excited about these new additions because of this. Each circuit is clearly different in layout but when they are all following the same template they still just end up feeling too similar which just makes it tricky to get all that interested in them.

    1. @stefmeister – Agreed. The long straight followed by tight or tight-ish corner (occasionally chicane) is because they have to have a way to get a pass in. As for the painfully twisty parts and the sweeping turn parts I have two ideas. 1) They want to mix it up so that the track can’t be called a certain type of circuit. 2) They want to emulate parts of other tracks people like.

      Meanwhile, Monaco is almost all tight corners and Spa is a lot of sweepers. They are too focused on the formula–as you note–and not enough attention to creating a circuit that is fun to watch and offers good opportunities to race regardless of what other boxes it checks. I think they should create more tracks in online simulations to figure out good layouts. But street circuits are vastly less expensive than bespoke circuits, so they are shoehorned a bit.

  4. Has there ever been a race that’s received more pushback from locals than this one?

    1. @Louie Not to my knowledge or memory.

    2. Spa.

      I seem to recall a lawsuit several years ago by local residents regarding noise– They deliberately moved next to a race track, and then complained that the race track was noisy.

      Aha! Found it. Based on a 2007 noise complaint, the track’s license to operate was suspended in 2009 for 17 years.

      Obviously, an agreement was reached in time for the 2009 race, but I would say a 17 year moratorium on racing is worse than what went on in Miami Gardens.

    3. Michael A.
      4th May 2022, 0:34

      @Louie, Albert Park, Melbourne ongoing protests by locals and the Save Albert Park Group, greatly supported by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

  5. The Dolphins
    3rd May 2022, 19:00

    Overall I like the look of the circuit, I’ll reserve judgement until I see the cars race around it. However the faux marina and the lack of affordable tickets is embarrassing. Had they moved T15 and T16 further West to the Turnpike Access road it would have made space to put two or three more grandstands at those turns and sacrifice one of the mega-long straights. It’s interesting to see the fluidity of the design, maybe the circuit will change again for next season.

  6. Robert McKay
    3rd May 2022, 19:21

    Every single one of those options has the same problem, in that it’s “we want to be in this location! Now find a way to fit a racetrack in here somehow”. Is it the best way to go about it? Mmmm…no.

    The early ones just look silly, to be honest. Where they’ve finally landed looks the most like an actual race circuit, and we’ll see how it goes this weekend, but it’s still very much constrained by the decision to somehow get a race in Miami in the bit where there’s the fewest objections.

    1. Yep. And going the street circuit route, while cheaper, limits options even more.

  7. Awful design! Only room for 3x DRS zones 🤔

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  9. Hope it produces good racing, but I read somewhere that Friday-only GA tickets cost $300?!! Crazy prices. I have my €40 Friday-only ticket already booked for Spa this year, considering the GA views from the raised banks at Spa I would say it’s easily more than 10x better value.

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